Music Reviews, St AlbanDs

St AlbanDs vol.3: Minnie Birch, Indi Forde & The Vegas, Starseedz


Understated, delicate, sensitive. This is Minnie Birch’s style. She lays bare her feelings on matters of
the heart with the sparsest of musical accompaniment – rarely more than gentle acoustic guitar, occasionally individual piano notes dropping like splashes of colour onto an almost blank canvas.
It’s said that it’s the space between the notes that makes the music and Minnie’s use of it gives an unnervingly intense quality to her sound. Conor O’Brien (Villagers) comes to mind as an example of this type of hypnotic
music that captures your attention precisely because it isn’t screaming for it. Minnie’s recordings draw you in completely if you will but let them.

Her live shows are no different. Rare is the performer who can hush a festival tent without raising her voice above the crowd – but Birch’s aura and the gentle power of her pure voice and personal lyrics turn heads without the need for anybody to go “ssshh”.
Recommended listening is Sea Shanty and Fight Song from Minnie’s Settled EP, produced by George Shilling whose sound engineering credits include Billy Bragg, Teenage Fanclub, Texas, The Corrs and many, many more.
Also check out Glitter, Minnie’s new video single.

On Saturday 18th January Minnie Birch will play a FREE entry gig with donations welcome to help raise funds for Watford Hospital Radio. The event is at Watford Museum 194 High Street Watford Herts WD17 2DT.


It’s no overstatement to say this band’s debut ep, Fair Fight, is brilliant. You could listen to the radio all day and not hear anything as hot as this. There’s a tension running through each song – the urge to rock. The band satisfies this desire excitingly without fail, lurching into Museisms of riffery with the bass and drums free to wander and thrash until satiated. It’s all done in the best possible taste, the band never straying into indulgent territory. All their songs stay on target with choruses as their focus and admirable brevity in the face of the ever present temptation to go off piste. Prog/rock and metal influences are channelled into short, snappy, thrilling portions of radio friendly guitar pop. An extra funky Sterophonics might be a reasonable comparison.

Indi Forde has those qualities people speak of when discussing Jimi Hendrix – in admiring his original, natural, skilful guitar parts it’s easily overlooked that here too is a vocalist of the highest order. Power, energy, subtlety, unpredictabilty and innate musicality combine to produce a singer with a voice that’s gold dust in pop – you know who it is within an instant of hearing him.

Indi Forde & The Vegas will play The Live Music Project on Saturday 25th January 2014 at Trestle Arts Base, St Albans. Free entry, doors open 7.30pm


In the month during which we lost Phil Everly it’s worth reaffirming just how good it is to hear voices singing in perfect harmony. Even more so, perhaps, when it’s a male/female blend such as that of Starseedz who remind me of St Etienne and Dubstar in their pomp.

This duo has a delightful sound, easy on the ear, enthralling and very much the kind of thing we should be hearing day in, day out on BBC Radio 2 or Magic FM, say. It’s atmospheric in a summery way. Listening to Starseedz is like opening the curtains on a July morning and letting the sun in. Their sound is light, bouncy, soft, bright. The lead vocals are shared by songwriters Catrine O’Neill and Jonothan Willoughby, which makes for good variety. Their voices are matched incredibly well and like Lineker and Beardsley (outdated football reference – sorry) the pair have an obvious understanding of how they play off each other to great effect.

Starseedz’ songs and recordings are easily radio quality and it’s a minor outrage that none of their material is available on iTunes or similar yet. Can’t be long now though, it’s to be hoped.

Starseedz will play The Live Music Project on Saturday 25th January 2014 at Trestle Arts Base, St Albans. Free entry, doors open 7.30pm